Celebrating 111 with Swedish and Scrabble
- Article by: WARREN WOLFE
- Star Tribune
- July 23, 2010 - 7:52 PM
Ruth Anderson, believed the oldest Minnesotan and likely the only one who has lived in three centuries, celebrates her 111th birthday Saturday.
"You know, she's doing well, as positive as ever," said daughter-in-law Bev Anderson of Balaton in southwestern Minnesota. "She has such a good attitude, enjoys so much. She's fun to be around."
Not just fun. Ruth Anderson, who lived most of her life on a farm near Balaton, also is a competitive Scrabble player. After learning of her near daily games with relatives and friends, the CEO of game maker Hasbro phoned last year and sent her a $300 version of the word game.
Since 2005, she has lived at Avera Marshall Morningside Heights Care Center in Marshall, Minn., still reading newspapers, her Bible and other books in Swedish and English.
"We were just there and she started reading in Swedish to us from a book about Swedish immigration," her daughter-in-law said this week. "Then, thankfully, she translated it into English."
With hearing problems, Anderson has difficulty with telephone conversations. In an interview last year, she said she looks forward to every day.
"You do things. You think about things," she said. "And then don't waste time fussing about things you can't change."
Last April, for an Earth Day celebration by the city of St. Paul, she wrote a wish that was flown on a kite: "I, Ruth Anderson, wish that all people would seek the Kingdom of God because all things would be added unto you. I wish for gentle rains, May flowers and bright sunshine and that all people would live together peaceably."
The granddaughter of Swedish immigrants, Anderson was born Ruth Peterson on the Balaton farm in 1899 and learned English when she went to school. After secretarial school in Mankato, she was an office worker in Minneapolis for six years, returning home when her father became ill.
At age 60, she married her widowed brother-in-law, George Anderson, then 48, and inherited a family of four sons. He died at age 90.
13th oldest American
Anderson is the 47th oldest person in the world -- the 13th oldest American -- listed by the Gerontological Research Group in California, which validates "supercentenarians" 110 or older (www.grg.org). The oldest American, Eunice Sanborn of Texas, turned 114 this week.
With an average life expectancy in the United States of 78 years, few people live to extreme old age. About one in 6,000 live to be 100. Just one in 7 million make it to age 110.
Anderson is part of two national studies of centenarians. Researcher Trish Tersteeg of Redwood Falls, Minn., who is studying women 90 and older, with pain and aging expert Dr. C. Norman Shealy of Missouri, recently visited Anderson for a blood sample to help determine why some people have very long lives.
Anderson's birthday celebration will start with a memorial service for a niece in her 70s who died recently, then a family dinner for about 50 relatives and a community open house from 2-4 p.m.
"Crowds get to be a little noisy for her, so she'll probably sit to one side and talk one-on-one with people," her daughter-in-law said. "Then maybe somebody will scare up a quiet game of Scrabble."
Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253
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